Discussing Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research
The first thing to establish is to be aware that there is a quantitative research as well as qualitative research. In this instance, the emphasis would be on quantitative research. However, it is important to see the difference in a short comparison. Quantitative research allows a scholar to find the hard facts as well as collect data to demonstrate a “truth or a rule or a law (saintbeagle, 2011). The results from the quantifiable data will allow the scholar or researcher to find the understanding of the empirical facts. It is also about having datasets that others can tap into. The analysis of such research is to obtain an objective understanding of a particular research topic. The qualitative research lends itself to a subjective interpretation of research, and follows a more complex investigation (Harvardmagazine.com, 2015). In most instances, researchers would use both types of research methods, but also mixed methods as more and more types of research methods are being used (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).
The Christian, as much as any other scholar should be able to apply such research to their topics (saintbeagle, 2011). The possibility does exist that the Christian might have a different emphasis, especially when it comes to quantitative research, as well as cross-cultural research. According to saintbeagle (2011), these are the two ways in which the Christian can do research, and it is similar to that of other scholars. However, there are those who would disagree with this. The reason for the disagreement is that, if the research would be approached “from the presuppositions associated with quantitative or qualitative research, [it would] color that research and prevent it from being good theological research” (saintbeagle, 2011). It is, according to saintbeagle (2011), that John Milbank suggests that theological research should be distinctive from social research (saintbeagle, 2011). The question is still, however: Do Christian scholars conduct cross-cultural quantitative research differently from other scholars? As said before, there should be no difference between the way in which a Christian scholar conducts research and the way in which a scholar would in the social sciences. The emphasis is on being a scholar, and the aim is to obtain the best, logical explanation, and research for a specific topic.
The Christian Perspective on Quantitative Research
According to Clinton et al, “quantitative research is a type of scientific investigation that records observations in a numerical or codified system.” This includes tables, graphs, and statistics. The purpose is to identify differences among groups, and correlation or causal association (Clinton & Hawkins, 2011). The most important aspect that needs to be remembered is that it is important to understand that the Bible is interpreted differently by many church groups, all of which are lumped under the name Christianity. This makes it a difficult means of obtaining the quantitative data to analyze. This is one of the reasons why there are misgivings on whether the research could be reliable. If so, and if there is a need to conduct cross-cultural theological research, quantitative research is an important methodology. It is, therefore, even more imperative for the Christian scholar to follow a scientific methodology in doing research – such as quantitative research. This falls in line with what Ingrid Storm has said: that, even though religion is too complex to be researched with the quantitative method, there is need to pinpoint the exact aspects of religion that would need to be researched in this way, and also which parts of the population would be targeted (Storm).
What is further important is that some of the questions that should be posed should be targeted at best benefitting the research through this method. The detail that can be obtained through this method could lead to it being “replicated, tested and criticized by other researchers in the scientific community” (Storm), thus, making it valued research. The importance in the twenty-first century is especially that Christian scholars ensure that their research is valid and valuable. It, therefore, suggested that they do attend institutions where liberal theology is taught (McGrath, 2001). In this article Reverend Alistair McGrath discusses the issues that most Christians would have regarding this suggestion. It is a matter of learning how to influence “the way in which a rising generation thinks (McGrath, 2001). This is possible if you know how they think and be able to present work that they can relate to. Reverend Dr McGrath also suggests that it is about the passion. Hence. If you are an evangelical Christian, the fact that you are learning liberal ways to do research, should not influence your passion to find ways of reaching the people you intend to reach with the Gospel. With such teaching, your teaching in turn, could enable the laypersons to do better research (McGrath, 2001).
Quantitative Research for a Purpose
Thus, quantitative research and analysis helps the Christian researcher or scholar to understand God’s Word in a clearer and much deeper way, as well as knowing better who God is. It is important to collect data in order for it to be analyzed. By being trained in a more secular training seminar, the Christian scholar can better understand the ways in which to collect their own data for their purposes (McGrath, 2001). In order for the Christian scholar to do this, there is the necessity to follow the rules or suggested data collection and analysis of the non-Christian researcher (which is what secular training would teach them), especially as these are tried and tested methodologies to follow (Chambliss, Schutt & Schutt, 2003). An example that one could use here is the name of God (See Table 1: own compilation). In contrast to those who believe that there is only one God and that there is no Trinity, the illustration of the fact that the Name of God are varied. Hence, the number of times that the name is used and in its context will give the quantitative study meaning as well. It will encourage debate as well as replication, testing and criticism (Storm).
Source: Own Data Sourced from Bible.org, 2013
This is just a simplified example, for the purpose of illustration, of how quantitative research can be put together, in this instance, to point to the fact that God has many names that have specific meanings. One can therefore not reduce it to just one name such as Jehovah, for example. The main purpose of reflecting on the Name of God is to give an indication of who God is in the way the use of His Name can lead us. In terms of putting together statistics, the same procedure should, therefore, be followed as that of any other academic research paper. Having said that, and as mentioned already that, the fact that there is a presupposition associated with this quantitative research, it could color the research and prevent it from being good theological research (saintbeagle, 2011). The point of this quantifiable data is to provide evidence that one cannot use a single Name for God, such as Jehovah, because the Word of God reveals that there are contextual uses for the particular Name allocated to God. It would therefore add value to the qualitative research that would be done around the particular discussion as in using one Name for God as opposed to the Names as given in the Bible.
It is necessary to do quantitative research (as well as qualitative research) so that the Christian scholar can consolidate their faith, and be able to relate that “faith and learning, to the patient teaching and personal example.” It is about learning, researching, and reflecting on the content of the Bible in order to ignite further faith in God and His and their discipline. (McGrath, 2001).
Cross-Cultural Quantitative Research for Christian Scholars
In general the Bible is a cross-cultural document, as it contains many different cultural interactions even though the main thrust of the culture is that of the Hebrews. It is also clear that when anyone outside of this context reads the Bible, it is already a cross-cultural interaction (Rohrbaugh, 2007). However, various nations are recorded in the Bible, and specifically their interaction with the Hebrew people – the Israelites. One could perhaps look at the battles that the Israelites fought, as an example of the nations that existed in and around Israel (See Table 2).
Source: Own Data sourced from Constantly Reforming, 2011
The Christian scholar should, therefore, conduct quantitative research as any other type of cross-cultural research is done. It is important for the Christian scholar, therefore, to study the various methods of research to produce quality research (Mertens, 2005). As mentioned earlier, there are secular seminaries where the Christian can find the best methods to do general research, and more specifically learn how to conduct quantitative research (McGrath, 2001). Again, here, the difference would be that it would have a specific context. Thus, it is important to point out the existence of the various nations (and their cultures) through quantitative research (a very simplistic example to illustrate the point). It would depend on what the focus would be as well. Tarakeshwar, Stanton & Pargament reveal that religion cannot be separated from culture, as can be seen throughout the Bible (Tarakeshwar, Stanton & Pargament, 2003). They have given a very interesting view of what it means to place culture (and more specifically cross-cultural research) in a context of the real world. One could perhaps specify here again that the Christians have a specific context, and should always be looked at from that perspective. They have, for example, assessed the appearance of religion in cross-cultural research in articles. Table 3 is an illustration of their assessment in quantitative terms.
Source: Tarakeshwar, N., Stanton, J., & Pargament, K. (2003). RELIGION: An Overlooked Dimension in Cross-Cultural Psychology. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34(4), 377-394.
This is a very interesting study that allows the scholar to see the intricate nature of research, and how religious (or Christian) research cannot be separated from the fabric of culture, cross-cultural intricacies, human behavior, and the perspectives of these theories (Tarakeshwar, Stanton & Pargament, 2003). Research of this nature, to compare and contrast in quantitative terms, can only enhance understanding and, thus, give meaning to the content as well as the context of the qualitative part of the research. It will also establish the relevance of the research for further studies as well as for cross-reference in non-Christian research. An example of such research could be seen in the gathering of information of the growth of the size and distribution of global Christianity between 1910 and 2010 (see Figure 1) This can only happen by using the same tools as the scholars in the social sciences.
Figure 1: Regional Distribution of Christians.
Source: Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, 2011
It is important to note that Figure 1 covers all of Christianity regardless of church affiliation. It would be the general name given to all who are not of another religion (Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, 2011). This can be further broken apart into specific church affiliation. This quantitative research is not just for the purpose of a Christian context, but all other researchers would find it an interest especially when they deal with the various religions from various cultures.
In answer to the question then: “Do Christian scholars conduct cross-cultural quantitative research differently from other scholars?” – the answer would be yes. The reasons are clear, as there are two ways to conduct research – the quantitative research as well as the quantitative research. In order to have a complete understanding of a particular topic, the way in which Christian do conduct research are the same as the rest of the academic scholars. This is in reference to the fact that there is research available to showcase this. This is done so that there is a body of work that other Christian scholars can tap into, but that academic scholars could also use when needed. The research on religions, and the interaction of these religions with the rest of the world, and across cultures are specifically of great value to both Christian and non-Christian researchers (Tarakeshwar, Stanton & Pargament, 2003).
The tables and figures used here are merely examples of what the Christian scholar can do with Biblical content in quantitative research. However, there are reflection papers and research papers that could be used to demonstrate more thorough research by scholars. With further research on the many topics that are available Reverend McGrath’s ideas might be better understood as well (McGrath, 2001). Again, one must understand that his is only one perspective, and with further research the need for cross-cultural quantitative research would be clearly seen as no different to that of the other scholars.
Reverend Dr McGrath has given a clear illustration of why it is necessary for Christian scholars to participate in secular research methods (McGrath, 2001).This is also an answer to the given question, as most valued Christian research applies the research methods from secular institutions. It is simply that these methods have been proven to be effective in finding answers to various questions. It also answers to the questions of the rest of the world, especially the world in the twenty-first century. It is, therefore, imperative that the Christian researchers employ the help of most of the research in the secular world, with application to there own context, which is a cross-cultural context in itself. One major aspect regarding quantitative research for the Christian is that it embellishes and ignites the qualitative research even more. This is what Mertens (2005) made clear in the book Research And Evaluation In Education And Psychology
Bible.org. (2013). Names of God. Retrieved 2 July 2015, from https://bible.org/article/names-god
Chambliss, D., Schutt, R., & Schutt, R. (2003). Making Sense Of The Social World: Methods of Investigation. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press.
Clinton, T. & Hawkins, R. (2011). The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling: An Indispensable Tool for Helping People with Their Problems. Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2011
Constantly Reforming, (2011). Every Battle in the Bible. Retrieved from https://constantlyreforming.wordpress.com/every-battle-in-the-bible/
Harvardmagazine.com. (2015). Understanding big data leads to insights, efficiencies, and saved lives | Harvard Magazine Mar-Apr 2014. Retrieved from http://harvardmagazine.com/2014/03/why-big-data-is-a-big-deal
Johnson, R. B. & Onwuegbuzie. J. (2004). Mixed Methods Research: A Research Paradigm Whose Time Has Come. Educational Researcher, 33(7) (Oct., 2004), pp. 14-26 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3700093 .
Mertens, D. (2005). Research And Evaluation In Education And Psychology. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project. (2011). Global Christianity – A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-exec/
Rev. Dr. Alister McGrath (2001). Proceedings from the C-A-N Conference 2001. The Christian Scholar in the 21st Century. http://christianacademicnetwork.net/newjoomla/index.php/publicaitons/being-a-christian-academic/the-christian-scholar-in-the-21st-century
Rohrbaugh, R. (2007). The New Testament in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
saintbeagle, (2011). Quantitative vs. Qualitative. Retrieved 30 June 2015, from https://saintbeagle.wordpress.com/papers/quantitative-vs-qualitative/
Storm, I. Researching religion using quantitative methods. Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester. Retrieved 01 July 2015 from http://www.kent.ac.uk/religionmethods/documents/Researching%20religion%20using%20quantitative%20data.pdf
Tarakeshwar, N., Stanton, J., & Pargament, K. (2003). RELIGION: An Overlooked Dimension in Cross-Cultural Psychology. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34(4), 377-394.